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What's a pie grower?

Janahan Sivaraman
Janahan Sivaraman
4 min read
What's a pie grower?

A pie grower is an individual with a growth mindset. The pie is the gap between what exists and what could be. Growing pie is by far the most direct way to grow your career. By growing the pie, you create an irrefutable ledger of transitive success.


Let me explain…

The extra mile that you go with your growth mindset will foster good will with your colleagues for three reasons.

First, traditional fixed mindset operators (We’ll call them “pie-eyers” or people looking at your pie) assume that opportunity is a zero-sum game. Therefore, to increase your impact, you must take opportunities from someone else. This leads to defensive and blocking-type behavior from your colleagues. This is no way to build alliances. When you stop stepping on peoples’ toes, you quickly realize how willing folks are to work with you.

Second, you will get excellent opportunities to highlight all the folks who facilitated your pie growing. Most people at work are overworked and underappreciated. Taking the time to shout out all the folks who help you have a disproportionate impact turns colleagues into partners. We go much further together than alone.

Finally, it will enable your teammates to deliver outsized outcomes as their work will utilize the foundations you’ve built. So you’ll have folks facilitating and using what you’ve worked on so all of y’all are riding the same wave. This leads to natural alignment.

Let's get into how we can bring pie growing into action. Here are the 3 fundamentals of how to grow the pie. If you internalize these, the sky's the limit for your career

  • Pie Growers focus their energies on matters that have disproportionate impact.

We all have the same amount of hours in a day. How can we identify the repeated works in a process and re-use the outcome from them? How could we create or facilitate a new line of business? How can we build trust with our customers? It’s really key here to identify opportunities which have leverage - meaning the input has a multiplicative factor on the output.

  • Pie Growers build alliances by living in the future

A pie grower realizes to create something new, you’re going to need a ton of folks rooting for you. You must show them why your version of the future is worth being a part of. Anywhere you are, dreamers will imagine a better version. Figure out what they need and they will cheer for you every step of the way. This is the only way to highlight risk 6+ months out in the future and manage it before most folks realize it even exists.

  • Pie Growers understand that comparison robs you of joy

When we focus on what’s on other people’s plates, we don’t have much time to focus on growing the pie. Growing the pie is time consuming work and we need to say no to most things to pursue it sustainably and successfully.

Pie Growing will do wonders for you and your colleagues’ careers. When I joined my first Health Tech job, the first system we were asked to implement was to integrate a 3rd party tool with some glue code - specifically how to implement2 business logic services and a database in the cloud and it had to be HIPAA compliant. Before doing anything, I talked to four different teams and got four different answers as to how teams deployed business logic services and databases to the cloud. None of which came with a, “oh yeah, and you should follow in our footsteps”. I quickly realized every team, every time the same problem resurfaced, was re-solving infrastructure provisioning, networking, logging, metrics, and even HIPAA compliance.

Imagine every time you want to deploy a business logic service you end up re-architecting the foundations of a highly compliant distributed system in the cloud. All of these re-solved problems by every team delay delivery. There’s just less impact delivered.

This was a golden pie growing moment - how could I push infrastructure, networking, logging, metrics, and compliance down a level of abstraction so it felt to developers we weren’t even working in a highly compliant environment? A whole “HIPAA Compliant Cloud” where you could focus on the business logic. Then we could deliver as fast as eCommerce. Think about how that would affect the career growth potential for your teammates. The less friction there is to build, test, and deploy, the more iteration loops you can deliver. The more you can iterate the more you can improve. There’s just more impact delivered. These were the principles I’d learned in “The Effective Engineer” and I was finally getting an opportunity to drive and implement them in real life.

Growing this pie, like this example, got me promoted from a Staff to Principal Engineer in just 14 months. We were able to go from nothing to production for the COVID-19 Vaccine systems in the “HIPAA Compliant Cloud” I drove in just 5 weeks because we were able to focus on business logic. Most of my teammates were promoted shortly thereafter. We wouldn’t have been able to deliver so quickly if we’d had to re-solve all the infrastructure needs before handling the business logic.

I didn’t even know what HIPAA stood for when I started at that Health Tech company. You cannot be afraid of the unknown and you must live out of abundance. If solving a problem means learning a new skill that’ll scale, you’ll put in that time on the front side and reap the benefits on the back. All that exists today is merely a snapshot. It’s futile to grasp at a fleeting semblance of reality.

If you really want your career to take off, get ready to get your hands dirty in the soil and sow the seeds of pie.

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Janahan Sivaraman Twitter

Currently learning 2 languages "by ear". Cooking and sharing recipes. Secrets to growing your career in Tech.